(Leon Youngblood lives in Texas but says his heart is in LeFlore County, where he owns land and plans to move in a few years. His stories are a mixture of fiction and non-fiction involving people and events in and around Briar Circle, a community in the Ouachita mountains in Leflore County. The names are changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike, and to prevent my reputation from being soiled by associating with some of them. His column appears on Wednesday. He can be contacted by email at [email protected])
By LEON YOUNGBLOOD
Reverend John came by, unannounced, the other morning, and joined Clem Clemmens and me for a cup of coffee. Something was up, obviously. He was in “travel” mode. Sure enough, while sipping his coffee, he soon asked, “You two ever been to Cloudy?”
I answered, “John, it’s too hot to run off hunting treasure!”
John hoped to tell us something we did not know, but his disappointment was mild. “You know about the Cloudy treasure?” he asked.
“It’s a story that’s been around for awhile,” Clem said. “Why do you ask? Are you going to Cloudy, Pastor John?”
“Yes,” John said. “I thought I’d drive up there just to see the place. You’re invited to join me, if you’d like. I hope you will. Is Cloudy a town, a community, or what?”
“It isn’t much of anything,” Clem said. “But there is a legend about a treasure hidden there – supposedly eighty-thousand dollars in gold coins.”
John was hooked. “What else can you tell me about it?” he asked.
So, Clem educated John and me a bit on regional legends and folklore. At the turn of the last century, a captain, whose name is unknown, amassed quite a lot of money, for the time. He, with his Indian wife, lived in the Kiamichi mountains, then known as the “Seven Devils.” The captain was distrustful of everybody, it seems. Even his wife did not know where his treasure was hidden, or at least claimed to not know, after he died. Their humble cabin was on a low hill, west of a rocky ledge which may or may not have had a cave in it. When the old man went for money, he went in the direction of that ledge. That much she knew; but when the man died, the knowledge of the exact location of the horde was lost. Many attempts to find it failed. John, however, thought it was his turn to try and find it, and was ready to go.
There are numerous irrational elements to this lore, and I pointed out a few: They had so much money, for the time, yet lived in a log cabin? No enterprise that carried the title ‘captain’, in that era, would provide such a large salary. Surely the wife would venture to follow her husband, secretly, and see where the cheapskate was stashing the family funds. However, I was pointing out all this while we were gathering up a few bottled waters to take along for the trip.
“Where is Cloudy?” John asked Clem, while starting his SUV.
“Go to Rattan and turn left.”
“Where is Rattan?”
“Where is – ”
“John, put it in your GPS!” I said. It occurred to John, this was a good idea.
We left Briar Circle, had a quick lunch in Talihina, and headed southwest out of town. John had his metal detector, and we had our hiking sticks, and were all set to look around a little, nothing more intended. But, near the community of Snow, we saw a “land for sale” sign.
John had been interested in getting property. He asked, “Mind if we take a look?” – as he was turning onto the gravel road the signed pointed towards.
“I don’t,” I said.
“If you don’t care where you are, you ain’t lost,” Clem philosophized.
“Turn around when possible,” Gina said. Gina was the GPS lady. Gina had an alluring voice, and we imagined her physical appearance matched it. ‘Imagine’ was all we could do, though, for she was only present in the Global Positioning System box. As it stood, she was knowledgable about directions, and John vowed she was trustworthy. Politely, she advised again, “Turn around when possible.”
“Let’s turn this off until we see the land,” John said. “Then we’ll get back to Gina.” Clem and I agreed, for Gina was getting a little adamant about it. Six miles later, then a right turn plus five more miles, we found the land, thought it was nice, and John wrote down the pertinent information to inquire about later. This settled, John turned the GPS on again.
Now, however, Gina was a little sulky. “Redirecting,” she said. Then, apparently, she referred us to her lawyer, for text came up that warned us we’d be on unpaved roads and asking if we accepted this new situation. It was all right by us. We figured we were fairly close to Cloudy, anyway, and did not mind the backroads. This confirmed, Gina returned. Somehow, though, she did not seem to be the same woman. The authority was still in her voice, but the certainty seemed compromised. We followed her instructions, though. We turned right when she said to, on a gravel road, and then turned left, when she said to, on a primitive road, and then went north, at her direction, on an indescribable road. There were roads that seemed mere trails, but Gina wanted to take them all. This sort of thing went on and on, for miles and miles. To me, Gina’s directions sometimes made little sense; but John and Clem were mesmerized by modern technology and a pretty voice. “Boys,” I suggested several times, “we’re lost.” John and Clem did not think so. Though Pushmataha is a beautiful county, I was getting my fill. I wanted to go home.
We eventually were whipped. Along about 6:30, over soaring temperatures, vicious roads, and no roads at all, we pulled over and sat in John’s SUV sipping water and sharing a couple of melted chocolate bars. Pastor John, apologetically, said, “My friends, I’m sorry. There’re warnings in the book of ‘Proverbs’ about listening to the voices and vices of beautiful women. And Christ Himself warned about treasuring treasures that aren’t heavenly treasures. But for me, it isn’t the riches. It’s the hunt. I like finding stuff. I’d love to find the Captain’s gold! But I repent!”
Gina mumbled something over the GPS. Nobody knew what, though, and by now, did not care. I said, “John, I wouldn’t open the market on confessions, right now. We’re going to get out of here.”
The Reverend looked at me, almost tearfully. “My friend, you know I’ve always liked rocks, fossils, gems, artifacts. What had been a hobby became an obsession! But I repent! No more! No more arrowheads! No more trilobites! No more Arkansas diamonds!” Here, Gina mumbled something over the GPS again, but we could not understand what she said.
Just then, we heard a rumbling sort of sound which kept getting louder. A log truck! A log truck was coming! We simply cranked up and followed him to Hwy 271, and salvation. After dinner in Antlers, we felt better. We had certainly found Rocky, Dusty and Bumpy, but we never found Cloudy. But after the first trip to the salad bar, my friend John was already planning the next expedition! “Except next time,” he said, “go to Rattan and turn left.”
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